Anticipation for an entertaining, original romantic comedy has been at an all-time high lately. We’re inundated with remake upon remake of already-well-established IP. Original ideas have a much harder time being supported and funded; the powers that be seem much more interested in recycling and live-action-optioning every existing franchise under the sun. So when the news came of Ghosted, a romantic action-comedy based in high-octane espionage, rom-com fans and moviegoers alike were on the cusp of being given something fun and original to tide them over until the summer’s big blockbusters. Turns out viewers were ravenous for it: the Dexter Fletcher-directed film just set the record for biggest movie debut on Apple TV+.
Beginning with one of the most recognizable tropes in modern dating, a guy meets a girl, gets her number, they hook up, and then he doesn’t hear back from her, despite making his continued infatuation with her painfully obvious. This premise brings a great opportunity to establish the mystery of why she suddenly drops him. The big reveal is her status as a CIA operative, and the remainder of the movie is spent with them navigating a high-stakes, mistaken-identity criminal conspiracy with severe global implications.
Aside from an engaging set piece involving an extended bus chase and shootout, it’s difficult to immerse yourself in the specifics of the conspiracy, and just how central a role that de Armas’ Sadie plays in uncovering and stopping it. You will need to extend your disbelief quite far to believe fully in A) the chemistry between Ghosted’s two leads (or its aching lack thereof), and B) the concept that a random civilian could keep up tactically with a trained agent and manage not to immediately get himself maimed or killed. The conspiracy itself just does not rise to the level of importance that communicates to the audience why we should be so invested in the protagonists winning. The rest of the film tumbles along in the rote succession of a criminal procedural, but with none of the character development.
And then there’s Evans; casting Ghosted’s main male protagonist against type requires creating a character with a much stronger disconnect to Evans’ real-life persona, otherwise it’s just too unbelievable and we keep thinking of a version of Steve Rogers or any of the other “hero” personality types he’s played before. It’s understood that when you do something well, you do it well and sometimes you want to play against that kind of personality, but the writing and characterization of Cole was not strong enough to make that departure believable. For much of his time on screen, it just felt like watching Chris Evans play a dork who’s somehow out of his own league.
Not to mention the cuts in the editing. Watching a conversation between any two or more characters involves a dizzying volley between faces and angles, so much so that it becomes hard to remain engaged in the conversations which unfurl major exposition whose ultimate points become lost in the flurry. A saving grace is the chaos of cameos, fun nonetheless for their meta feel if not adding much overall substance to the plot. Introducing these brief characters was a great decision on Fletcher’s part as it corralled attention and gave immediacy back to the operation. Without these momentary flashes of real, almost absurdist fun, Ghosted suffers from too much ambition and insufficient execution.